Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Yankees so far has been the starting pitching. Billed as the team’s best staff since 2003, they’ve stumbled out of the gates and haven’t quite recovered. Things aren’t as bad as they were in early April — as Mike mentioned, the pitchers have been going deeper lately. Yet they haven’t shown the dominance which we imagined heading into the season.
One bright spot on the staff is Andy Pettitte. As Eric Seidman notes in his FanGraphs post on the topic, Pettitte is already +1 wins this season through just 33 innings. Yes, he’s had his hiccups, but he’s turned in at least seven innings in three of his five starts, and only in the latest has he failed to record a quality start. In other words, the guy who was signed to be the fifth starter has been the ace of the staff in the early goings. As was the case in 2007, it’s difficult to imagine where the team would be without Pettitte right now.
Here is Seidman on Pettitte’s success from 2002 through 2008 (emphasis mine):
Over the last four seasons, Pettitte has averaged 213 innings and +4.6 wins. His total of +18.3 wins in that span of 2005-08 ranks ninth amongst all pitchers, ahead of both Jake Peavy and Josh Beckett. In 2004, he missed time due to injuries, but here are his win values from 2002-08, excluding that injury plagued 2004 campaign: +4.2, +5.5, +5.8, +3.5, +4.5, +4.4. Granted, I’m not here to make any sort of Hall of Fame case for the guy, but rather to point out he has had a terribly underrated career and he is still producing at a very high level. In fact, through five starts this season he has already amassed +1 win.
Of course, Pettitte benefits in this comparison to Beckett and Peavy, two of the more dominant pitchers of the current era, because 2002 was his age-30 season, while the other two were just rookies. So while that comp might not be completely valid, it is a testament to Pettitte’s consistency, minus his 2004 elbow injury. His second half last year gave some fans a scare, but thankfully he’s been in a full sprint to open 2009, at just the time the Yankees needed him.
While I used this thread to appreciate all Andy Pettitte has been for the Yanks, Seidman had a different reason. Apparently, he’s heard some fans clamor for Pettitte to move to the bullpen once Chien-Ming Wang returns. Excuse me? This I’ve never heard, probably because it’s so preposterous. Why would you ever remove your most solid pitcher from the rotation when the rest of the crew is struggling? Plus, as we’ve said ad nauseum, if the starters do their job the bullpen will become less relevant. The flaws will be exposed less frequently, and the best relievers will get the majority of the appearances.
During his first stint with the Yankees we remember Pettitte as a stopper, a guy who would come in on a day after a loss and turn in a solid performance. The Yankees could use that more than ever right now.
Okay, it’s time for this thirteen man pitching staff experiment to end. The starters have pitched into at least the sixth inning in nine of the last ten games and twelve of the last fourteen, and we’re getting to the point where guys like Mark Melancon and David Robertson are going four or five days between appearances. Even worse, the last two nights we’ve had to watch late inning, potentially game tying and/or game winning rallies die at the hands of Ramiro Pena and Jose Molina. Something has to be done about this.
I’ve long been a Brian Cashman supporter, but he’s asleep at the wheel here. I get that Jorge Posada‘s hurt and I get that A-Rod‘s out and I know Xavier Nady‘s loss was unfortunate, but guess what? The other 29 clubs don’t feel bad for the Yanks. Cash had an opportunity to improve his bench when Jorge Posada hit the DL, but instead opted for the easy paper move of calling up Frankie Cervelli. A spare reliever (coughJoseVerascough) could have been DFA’ed, sending a message to the other assorted crap in the pen as well as freeing up a 40-man spot for PJ Pilittere, who was killing the ball in Triple-A (.317-.349-.488) and is just as capable defensively as Cervelli. Posada’s roster spot could have been used for Juan Miranda, giving the Yanks an actual, real life hitter off the bench. But no, instead Pilittere gets DEMOTED to Double-A to fill Cervelli’s spot. That’s the definition of ass backwards.
There are solutions to the bench problem, but the front office just seems uninterested in pursuing them. Brett Gardner has proven to be utterly useless at anything but running the bases, so why not give Todd Linden a shot? He’s crushing Triple-A (.346-.426-.577, career .873 OPS in AAA), switch hits, plays all three outfield spots, and has been a bench player in the NL his whole career so he knows the routine. Doesn’t it sound like he’d be more useful than the obviously overmatched Gardner? Even John Rodriguez would be better use of a roster spot, but Linden’s got him beat on the versatility front. Do they really like Anthony Claggett so much that they aren’t willing to cut him and free up a 40-man spot?
Instead of carrying thirteen pitchers and three useless players on the bench, they could have been rolling with a bench of Pilittere, Berroa, Linden and Miranda, with seven arms in the bullpen. Then when A-Rod comes back, Berroa goes away and Pena takes over the utility infielder spot. How much different would the last two games have been if you had Miranda available to pinch hit late in the game with runners in scoring position? We’ll never know, but I know I would have certainly felt better about the Yanks’ chances with an actual hitter up there.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do sympathize with Joe Girardi about the bullpen. His two primary set-up are on the DL, and everyone else has been shaky at best. That’s tough for any team to overcome, but the Yanks still have a nice mix out there. Melancon’s way better than he’s shown, Phil Coke’s been rock solid, and even Edwar Ramirez has been effective in short stints. Cash and Girardi are right to be patient with this guys, but man, that doesn’t mean you weaken another part of the team just to carry extra arms.
Roster spots are like outs, they’re precious and need to be maximized because there are a limited amount of them. Instead, the Yanks are wasting several of them on extra relievers or players that really have no business being in the big leagues. Sure, in cases like Angel Berroa that is due to injury, and that’s fine. But the front office is not putting the best available team on the field day in and day out, and that’s frustrating. Frankly, it’s inexcusable for any team, nevermind one that just opening a $1.3B stadium and has $200M tied up in payroll, to get lazy with the roster.
News just broke on SportsCenter. More as it comes.
Update (11:48am): LA Times has the news.
Update (11:52am): From the LAT article:
Ramirez is expected to attribute the test results to medication received from a doctor for a personal medical issue, according to a source familiar with matter but not authorized to speak publicly.
Update (12:21pm): Okay, so now basically everyone involved, including Manny and Boras, are saying the positive test was triggered by a medication prescribed for a personal issue by a doctor in Miami. Regardless, banned substances are banned substances, and Manny will serve the suspension starting tonight. I suspect we’ll hear absolutely nothing about the possibility of Boston’s recent titles being tainted.
Update (12:36pm): Manny issued a statement, basically saying that it was a prescribed medication and that he’s been advised not to say anything else. He did note that he’s taken – and passed – about 15 other tests over the last few years. The statement is available here as a PDF.
Update by Ben (12:50pm): Per Will Carroll’s Twitter, Manny was suspended under section 8.G.2 of the drug agreement. This provision allows for a suspension if a player tests positive for controlled substances, PEDs or stimulants not enumerated in the prior Section 8 terms. (The JDA is available here as a PDF.)
So basically, it sounds as though Manny has been suspended for something other than a PED, a stimulant or marijuana. It could be HGH; it could be something less serious. Either way, the suspension was at the discretion of Bud Selig. Something big happened here.
Update by Ben (1:56 pm): Yahoo! Sports reports that the banned substance was a sexual performance enhancing drug. It isn’t Viagra but rather, as Steve Henson and Tim Brown report, “a substance that treats the cause rather providing a temporary boost in sexual performance, the source said.” What the cause could be is anyone’s guess.
Update by Ben (2:12 pm): ESPN reports that the fertility drug Manny was using is a steroid booster. The Worldwide Leader writes, “HCG is a women’s fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body’s natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle.” This could blow up even more.
The All-Star game is in mid-July. So why start balloting in April? Search me. MLB has apparently decided that this is the best course of action. The problem, of course, is that only the Opening Day starters got on the ballot, leaving guys like Nick Swisher high and dry. That’s a shame, because if Lastings Millidge belongs on the ballot, so does Nicky S. Thankfully, a group of Yanks fans have banded together to raise awareness for this cause. It’s the aptly-titled VoteSwisher.com. Head over there and get all the info to write in Nick on the ballot. With our forces combined we can get him more write-in votes than Ron Paul. · (10) ·
Last night’s loss to Tampa Bay marked Joe Girardi‘s 189th game as the Yankee skipper. Since replacing Joe Torre, Girardi has gone 102-87, good for a .540 winning percentage. For Yankee standards, that’s not exactly a stellar start.
As this is New York and as Yankee fans are known to be fickle, as the Red Sox’s Tuesday night victory over the Yanks reached its conclusion, the few remaining fans in Yankee Stadium took up a chant. “We want Torre,” they yelled as Joe Girardi walked to the mound to remove an ineffective Mark Melancon from the hill.
It is, of course, the logical response for many fans. The Yankees find themselves under .500 on the season. They’ve managed to lose games by getting shelled and by failing to come through in the clutch. They’ve found no success out of the pen and are 0-5 against Boston. In another era, Joe Girardi would be out of the job for, as David Pinto noted, failing to deliver the goods.
For a real perspective on this issue, though, the man with the green tea had the smartest statement. The L.A. Times asked Joe Torre his take on the situation in New York, and Joe had a perfectly rational and calming answer. No wonder the fans on Tuesday wanted him back.
“Those fans are impatient. I enjoyed the 12 years. They weren’t always happy with me,” He said. “I feel for Joe because this kid’s a good manager and he’s going to be a better manager. We’re still talking about the first month of the season. There’s so much baseball to play. There’s a lot of talent on that club and they’re going to win their share of games.”
It does not look good in New York right now. The Yankees are 5.5 games out of first place after just 27 games of the season, and they are setting themselves up for yet another mid-season comeback. But the Yankees are playing now without their starting third baseman, their starting catcher and their Opening Day right fielder. The team’s setup man is out indefinitely with an elbow problem, and the number two starter is trying to build up strength in his legs. Guys on the roster who have no business being here — Angel Berroa, Francisco Cervelli — have been pressed into action, and that just isn’t Joe Girardi’s fault.
In one day, the Joe Girardi Job Watch can begin in earnest. When A-Rod returns, a big missing piece of the 2009 puzzle will be in place, and as much of a headache that A-Rod can be, he makes the rest of the team better. The bullpen is still an issue, and Brett Tomko certainly isn’t the answer. With A-Rod around, though, the Yanks should put their mediocre play behind them. If they’re still under .500 come June 7, then we can talk about Girardi’s job.
The Yankees are like a misbehaving child: I’m not angry, I’m disappointed. Frustrated too. After playing horribly for seven and two thirds innings the Yankees actually caught a break, but they couldn’t finish the job. In three straight innings they had the go-ahead, winning, or tying run in scoring position and failed to plate him. That gave Tampa Bay a few extra chances, and Carlos Pena took advantage in the 10th and gave the Rays the game, 4-3.
A.J. Burnett‘s start was indicative of his season to date. At six innings, three earned runs it was technically a quality start, but it was yet another stat where Burnett hasn’t dominated. Six innings, three runs is fine if it’s mixed with a few eight innings, one run performances. Those we have not seem from A.J. yet. They’ll come eventually, but the Yanks could sure use a few right about now, with Jorge Posada out and the offense struggling to string together hits.
That’s not to say that he pitched badly. Through five he was going just fine. Maybe a tick high with the pitch count, but he’d allowed just one run, a forgivable one. A B.J. Upton infield single, a steal, a sac, and an Evan Longoria double are just parts of baseball. As long as it happens just once, no biggie. But then the sixth happened. It started with what looked like a strikeout of Pat Burrell, but was actually a walk. Single, sac, sac fly, single puts the Rays up 3-0. With the Yanks offense, the prospects weren’t promising.
The Yankees haven’t hit well with runners in scoring position lately. That was not as big a problem last night, because they didn’t have many runners to not drive in. Through seven innings Andy Sonnanstine retired the side in order five times. He did it quite economically, too, tossing just 84 pitches through the first seven. Little did he know that the eighth, with the bottom of the order due up, would be his undoing.
With one out Ramiro Pena found himself in an 0-2 hole. The rookie managed to foul off three and take two balls before getting a pitch he liked. That went to right for a single. Then Jose “Double or Nothing” Molina went the other way and put runners on second and third with one out. That was the night for Sonnanstine. After a Johnny Damon walk Mark Teixeira, 0 for 3 on the night to this point, stepped in. How the umps didn’t call a delay right there I don’t know, but they refrained and Tex took advantage, smacking a bases-clearing double to tie the game. Then, of course, the umps called for the tarp. But the Yankees were back. It was one of the best feelings from the past five days. It wouldn’t last.
After Mo quelled injury worries by striking out the side, the Yanks put runners on first and second with one out, but Pena and Molina could not deliver this time. Then disaster struck in the form of the AL home run leader. It was Coke’s only mistake, but it came at a terrible time. That was the difference, as the Yanks couldn’t plate Johnny Damon after he doubled with one out in the bottom of the 10th. Rays 4, Yanks suck. That’s exactly what it felt like.
On the upside, both Edwar and Albaladejo got the job done in signature fashion. Edwar induced two grounders and struck out two, while Albaladejo made ‘em put the ball on the ground. It’s only one appearance, but we’ll take that from the bullpen right now. They kept the Yanks in it, something they’ve had trouble doing all year. Other than that, though, there’s not much to be happy about. We can complain about the umps all we want, but that wasn’t the difference here. (Okay, maybe the Pena blown call turns into something, but it’s just as likely that Molina bounces into a twin killing right there.)
We’ll have to wait one more day for a win. Hopefully this forsaken rain won’t be an issue, but looking at the forecast it probably will be. Andy Pettitte will try to revive his old role as stopper. And think, just two more sleeps until A-Rod.
Yet another rally squandered by the bottom of the lineup. Good thing they’re carrying that 13th pitcher.
Scroll down for tonight’s game thread.
Garrison Lassiter has been placed on the DL with what’s been described as an upper body injury. Elsewhere in injury news, Jose Tabata will be out 4-6 weeks with a strained hammy. No word if he left the doctor’s office mid-diagnosis.
Triple-A Scranton‘s game was rained out; they’re going to play two tomorrow. Casey Fossum gets the ball in game one, Steven Jackson in game two.
Game 1 (10-8 win over Bowie in 6+ innings) game was completed early due to rain … this was the makeup of Monday’s rain out
Eduardo Nunez & Colin Curtis: both 2 for 5, 1 K – Nunez scored a pair of runs & drew a walk … Curtis scored a run
Reegie Corona: 2 for 3, 2 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 1 CS
Jorge Vazquez: 3 for 5, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 K – all this dude does it hit BOMBS
Marcos Vechionacci: 1 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
Seth Fortenberry: 0 for 2, 2 BB, 1 K
Kyle Anson: 1 for 4, 2 RBI, 1 K – dude had a 40-47 K/BB ratio last year
Kevin Smith: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB
James Cooper: 0 for 2, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 HBP
Ivan Nova: 4.2 IP, 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 6 BB, 2 K, 2 WP, 9-2 GB/FB – too many walks
Mike Dunn: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 0 K, 1-0 GB/FB – eek … 9 runs & 14 baserunners allowed in his last 1.2 IP
Josh Schmidt: 1 IP, zeroes, 2-1 GB/FB
Game 2 was rained out. They’ve got another doubleheader scheduled for tomorrow, but that’s to make up yesterday’s rain out.
Boo the tarp.
Andy Sonnanstine … really?